Misty Lyn and I have been in overlapping-but-not-quite-totally-the-same circles for the last decade plus. I think I first met her waaay back in the Elbow Room/Dabenport days.
We have a ton of shared friends, and in like 2008/9, when I was involved in helping organize some fundraiser shows and stuff for one of my fave orgs, 826michigan, we crossed paths here and there again, too. And then, of course, at Old Town.
It just kinda kept happening, and I’ve glad our orbits have overlapped a little more in the last few of years. It’s been fun to see what she’s up to, what she cares about, and what she channels her energy towards — in these last few years, that’s been photography and documenting the River Street Anthology in particular.
She’s turned those photo and capturing skills to her own project this year too, in the 52 Portraits Project — a series of portraits accompanied by extended interviews with various women, set up in podcast format.
It certainly feels humbling that she wanted to spend time chatting with me. I hope I had at least a little insight on navigating difficult times, or at least that listening to this makes you laugh a little bit.
And lordy, I had NO idea that I swore so much when talking about intense things, but I guess that’s just what I do now (so NSFW, yo!). Special audio appearance by Sparky, oops!
Here’s to stories, to reflecting on the long haul, sharing them, to learning and trying to connect to each other through them – in whatever form they may take.
Thank you, Misty, for all that you’re doing, and for taking the time to chat. ❤
I wrote this in mid April, right after Side A, and was waiting for some space to go back and take a second look/edit.
Got caught up in a celebration of spring and friends and my birthday (which felt wonderful, fun, life-affirming) and then in quick succession, the death of a friend from cancer (which felt sad, gutting, terrifying, complicated).
But it’s time to flip things over to Side B… even if it’s a little later than I’d figured…
You are here, this is one of the first shows you’ve been through since treatment ended six months ago. It’s harder to navigate shows with lots of standing. Walking is no problem, but your legs start to burn if you’re standing for over 20 minutes. The nerve damage from the chemo is still a daily frustration. It’s getting better slowly, though, certainly in your hands you can notice improvement. You can button buttons better again.
You’ve been back to a full-time work schedule for a month, though that’s more out of economic necessity than really feeling like you have the the energy to do it. All of the rehab and PT and working out and walk-a-lot-each-day-but-not-too-much takes a lot of other energy.
You joke with your doctor that you are the first person to use a Fitbit in order not to walk too many steps. You tend to get excited when you have energy and lose track and why not walk to work AND walk home? And then a few hours later your legs are on fire at 3am.
You’re doing all the things you’re supposed to do, and frankly you’re kind of tired of doing so much and feeling so stuck, exhausted, and still looking like a downy baby bird with no eyebrows.
But still, you are trying so hard to make room for joy. To save some energy for the people and things you love, and the reasons you’re excited to be coming out of this weird treatment cocoon.
There is this band you’ve loved since you were like 18. You were obsessed, when obsessed meant more than just heading to YouTube, when it meant finding some way to get some record or even a friend handing you a VHS tape. They’re going to play and you’ve never seen them live so goddammit you ARE going to be there.
You know it will be packed so you go early. You wear sneakers (ugh!) so you can stand longer. Your friend Greg is there and thank goodness he and your husband can hang out in a decent spot, because every 20 minutes you have to go sit down on a table of very expensive t-shirts. But still, you do it!
And The Mummies finally play and are great and fun and messy and it feels so good to be there in this place. You see people you’ve known since forever, and people you’re just getting to know. You make jokes but also still feel incredibly awkward, like a foal who can’t get its legs under it.
You are getting your legs under you. Through a friend’s incredible graciousness, you get to see Patti Smith (you get to sit for that one). You get to see PJ Harvey.
You know you are getting stronger. You can walk farther, but you are still taking a LOT of medicine for pain. Your monthly supply of pain medicine is a full two of these bottles — wide as a can of pop, but taller — pint glass for size.
You are here. Your birthday! So many lovely friends celebrate, and you look around at the greenery slowly revealing itself and the life people have bought and brought you, and you think “abundance” and sigh and feel grateful.
You are in this same place you were in just a little over a year ago. There are so many people, all crowded in. You think about the amount of medicine you were still taking a year ago just to be able to stand for 20 minutes at a time, and how now it’s less than a quarter of that.
You are here, but you have gone away on a trip and come back changed. Like some bizarre time travel Einstein shit — everyone but you has been experiencing time in a different way — all while you’ve trekked across the galaxy. It took you one year, but them 20. Or is it the other way around?
To everyone else, you were standing still — slower, even — resting, but there were so many things that shifted — things you’d thought were givens.
You move with your friend and your partner towards the stage, the band is starting. Your partner disappears into the crowd completely. No trace. That used to be your move. So many things have changed, roles flipped, patterns shifted, with new things to figure out.
You stand at the back of the crowd, you spot some folks you love but mostly you just focus on how your body feels the sound. You feel warm and thankful and alive. You don’t need to keep finding places to rest as much anymore.
Well, like outside the door. Not IN the bathroom with you.
You are uncomfortable with selfies, but comfortable here.
The walls are pink. You shift your stance in the light. You snap a picture.
b-room, driver’s side/backseat studio
You are here. Your feet cross the threshold of a beat-up room you’ve been in before.
You play and record songs with two of the closest people in your life.
Jo is the very best at snacks. You’d considered naming your band Snacks at one point.
You all want to capture this moment in time, and Jo is going to have a second kid. You know things are going to change a lot.
You have no idea how giant that statement really is.
dreamland theater, ypsi
You are here. You’re with these same bandmates, playing at a fest you’ve played every year since you started this band/playing bass — including playing right after you graduated school. Even that one year your guitarist had to go take a breastfeeding break in the car. These babes are some the most solid, most make-it-work women that you know. You are loyal.
As you’re starting off, some idiot tosses a beer can and an insult.
You plant your feet, square your hips, throw that beer can right back and holler right back at him. This boy’s dumb anger is not yours to carry.
You launch into a set that might well be your last as a band, though none you know it yet. You’re having a long-planned surgery in a month, and life’s taking some twists for everyone, as life does.
a farm, your house, the doctor’s office
You are here. Look, you’ve recovered from surgery!
You dance, hopping up and down, you celebrate, you stroll out to the fire, warming your feet by it — fancy shoes aren’t really made for the slight chill of a September night in the country.
You find a tiny bump in the shower, so you visit the doctor (he has braces. it’s disconcerting)
You are so, so tired, but finishing the second part of a three-part, nine-month marathon. You are mostly napping. Wanting nobody to need anything from you. You do not want to be needed. You need yourself and you need other people but they cannot need you, it takes too much.
You go to the hospital every day. You are so. damn. sick. of the hospital. But grateful it can help you. But also, did I mention tired?
Most days when fatigue hits, it’s heavy as a surging wave in the ocean. Suddenly, you need to lay down. You think of those weighted blankets, and imagine someone just running around throwing them on people. That is how it would look. Instant crumpling.
There is no choice, no coaxing the body with caffeine or breath or movement.
You are here. You are a shadow, in more ways than one. Your silhouette is different, because, wig. You’re wearing a hat because of the suddenly bright sun and hypersensitivity to light. It kind of makes you look like a shootout villain at high noon in a western.
You lay in a hammock under a blanket, in true Michigan style. The crocuses reach upward, and hyacinths pop.
Yesterday was my very last chemo session (!). I hope hope hope it is my last ever. But harsh as it is/was, I am glad it’s a treatment that exists, and a series of types of treatments that are constantly improving through research. Because even if it is my own last-ever (crossing my fingers for the next three years!), many many more people will continue to need it and be helped by it. People all around us that we love.
I am still kinda in a weird emotional limbo about it. I’m relieved (especially because the double-dose regimen change shortened the total time by so much), but as I get ready to give myself my last bone-marrow-boosting-shot, I’m still not really ready to feel celebratory as much as relieved.
Although I’m gonna get to see some much-loved ladies over the next couple days, so that may make me feel more celebratory. Yesterday and today, the only thing I have an incredibly strong urge to do is to go sit quietly by the river. Once it stops raining, find me somewhere along the Huron. I used to have this old red t-shirt that said “always a river,” and I wish I still had it.
For now, I am simply exhaling and feeling a little bit of extra peace.
Yesterday, while waiting for treatment, I went to visit my favorite piece of artwork in the cancer center — a print by the great Ann Mikolowski. It’s a print that I’ve written about privately, but am not ready to share until it feels less raw — a print that has been what I return to, my refrain, throughout the last four months. I think a lot about the Great Lakes and the ocean and waves. Which, being a long-ago English major, could simply just be the theme of “transformation” sneaking its way in somehow. I don’t know.
I’ll get all the fun side effects this week, but I am already relishing that those may be close to over. After that, I’ll get a few weeks of space to recover from chemo, starting radiation mid-April, going through June every weekday. Still a bit heavy-duty, but not as systemic, thankfully, as chemo.
Last night, Jeremy was watching videos, and this one came on. One of my favorite Joy Division songs, and yeah, I admit it, it made me cry — but with hope and with much, much feeling for the whole wide world and how connected it all is, and so very many other things that I can’t even process into words yet. Be kind to each other, friends. Your kindness to me means something every single day.
I have been thinking a lot about why I have harkened back quite a few times to earlier years — to being 18-23 or so — but not even in an overtly nostalgic way. I have some ideas. I’m writing about it to try to figure it out, but in that revisiting (and in the sorting-through-old-stuff that only being house-bound can spark!) I came across a rather emo poem I wrote when I was 19/20. I mean, it’s cheesy, but not bad for a 19 year old! It seemed appropriate, like maybe I was writing it to future-me…
Loving each and every crocus I see reaching up this week… ❤